Jan 312013

I’ve never understood the hype around the Super Bowl halftime show.

I suppose people think it matters because there are about a billion or so eyeballs on the screen—careers can be made or broken with a great or bad performance. Everyone hails Prince’s terrific performance from a few years ago, and we’re all still scratching our heads over exactly what it was that the Black-Eyed Peas did two years ago. And of course, Janet Jackson’s legendary wardrobe malfunction cannot be erased from the national consciousness (despite our earnest efforts).

Last year’s performance by Madonna was generally entertaining, although the best part was Richard Simmons lookalike Andy Lewis’ amazing work on the slackline—

How many times do you think he inadvertently groined or strangled himself learning that set of skills? Yowch!

Regardless, the Super Bowl halftime show really is playing a few songs in the middle of the NFL championship game when most people are either attacking the buffet or in the bathroom purging for the second half. Putting a big famous musical act in the middle of it all just seems to be adding more noise to the biggest commercial of the year. Aside from the actual game (for me), it all just sort of blends together.

My suggestion for a performance that no one will forget?

South Africa’s Die Antwoord—

I warn you: This video is NOT SAFE FOR WORK! It also may be considered OFFENSIVE, CRUDE, LEWD AND RUDE in many parts, but … the song is catchy and the video is … well … the most entertaining thing you will see today.

Now that’s entertainment!

And can you imagine the moment after the performance is over. “Now back to our announcers Jim Nantz and Phil Simms ….”

Jim and Phil [in booth, mouths dropped open]: ….. *

A few words about Die Antwoord—think of them like Marilyn Manson, an act specifically created to shock and offend. The two singers, Ninja and Yolandi, have talked about being in character (think David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust phase). By the way, they are a couple and have a child together.

According to Wikipedia:

When asked if he was playing a character, Ninja said, “Ninja is, how can I say, like Superman is to Clark Kent. The only difference is, I don’t take off this fokken Superman suit.” They have described their work as “documentary fiction” and “exaggerated experience” designed for shock value.

If you wondering about the hate for Lady Gaga, apparently she asked them to open for her during her South African tour, and this video was their response. (“Uh … so I guess that’s a NO, then …”)

Check out the making of “Fatty Boom Boom,” which will allay some of your feelings about what you just saw. Bottom line: It’s all an act … and a rather entertaining one!

Now move over Beyoncé!


Jan 282013

So the other day while I was working on my plan to not drop dead in front of my kids by running on the treadmill, I was flipping through the channels and came across NOVA: Rise of the Drones, which sounded sort of badass until I realized it was on PBS.

Still, it turns out that it was pretty cool as it explored advances we’ve made in the field of robotics and aviation—and by “pretty cool” I mean it’s sort of freakin’ scary.

Here’s the promo.

Some of the scary/cool stuff you see at the end—small drones that can make remarkable adjustments in milliseconds that allow them to fly though hoops tossed in the air, or ones that can distinguish a person standing motionless in the middle of a room.

In the show, one scientist discusses making a drone that could, for example, find a person trapped in a burning building and then relay that information back to rescue personnel. He also mentions his concern about someone taking his work and using it for “unintended purposes,” i.e. that same drone hunting down someone and killing them. And in the show, they do discuss how drones are, in fact, being deployed with explosives for “military applications.”

I immediately thought of Runaway, where KISS’ Gene Simmons is a madman who builds an army of killing robots, only to be thwarted by Tom Selleck, who with the help of Higgins and TC saves the day …

… Or something like that. It’s been almost 30 years since the movie came out and “Magnum P.I.” was on. I guess it all blends together.

But really, we’ve gone from almost laughable science fiction to items that have become given science fact, all in a short time. It’s remarkable to me—in that I’m going to make a remark about it—that the original Star Trek communicator pales in comparison to what my actual iPhone is capable of. Likewise lots of other “sci-fi” ideas from a few decades ago, things such as touch computer screens (Star Trek), video phone calls (“The Jetsons”) and digital billboards (Blade Runner).

I would say that I can only imagine what technologies may be available to us a century from now, but I’m not sure that I can. I mean, even the greatest minds of the early 20th century didn’t imagine things like nanotechnology being used to cure cancer or even something that seems basic to us now like GPS. How the heck can I come up with ideas that future generations will take for granted?

Well, regardless, here are a few “science ficitonal” things you may chuckle at today that may someday become science fact.

• Dream broadcast & interaction – Yeah, like Inception to the next level.

I have to think that eventually someone will figure out how to wire our brains so that we will be able to tap in and literally see what’s in our mind’s eye, both when we’re awake and unconscious. Considering that cochlear implants are already widely used for the hearing-impaired and electronic eye implants are already in clinical trials, it only stands to reason that at some point, someone will learn how to reverse the process in a sense, recording impulses from the brain rather than creating ones that go in.

If we can start tapping into our dreams while they’re happening, then the next step would be networking of brains and consciousnesses like in The Matrix. I’m just not sure we end up living our existences floating in tanks, but hey, you never know.


• Uploading the world’s knowledge to our brains at birth – I heard this story on NPR the other morning about how scientists have figured out how to store information on strands of DNA.

In a nutshell, rather than storing data electronically via conventional means—which is taking up more and more space and energy—information can now be encoded and loaded into DNA, making for a biological solution to the world’s electronic storage needs. Oh, and it’s mindbogglingly efficient, too.

From the story:

If you took everything human beings have ever written — an estimated 50 billion megabytes of text — and stored it in DNA, that DNA would still weigh less than a granola bar.

And that’s all at this point—imagine what happens as the process evolves.

So if you have a way to viably store information in the basic building blocks of life, then how long before someone figures out how to incorporate that DNA into the making of people? Genetic engineering has been going on for decades in vegetables and fruits, and more recently, on living creatures such as pigs, cattle, chicken and other “food-type” creatures to improve quality.

Gene and DNA research has also been ongoing in efforts designed to eventually eliminate “imperfections” in humans, such as susceptibility to certain diseases. Eye color, hair color and all sorts of other distinctive traits are also on the table for theoretical modification.

So that all being said, if some day scientists are getting into and tweaking embryos for certain characteristics, then why wouldn’t they add knowledge to the equation? Having a kid could be like ordering a computer online—just click on what programs/knowledge with which you want to preload your model, and boom! Instant total awareness at birth.

Speaking of DNA …

• Retrieval of past lives and memories – Okay, I don’t know if any research is being done in this area, but as we continue to discover the amazing amounts of information that can be stored in DNA, it may be only a matter of time before we realize that there’s more in there than we know.

We obviously get all our physical characteristics from our parents—eye and hair color, height, build, etc.—as well as many of our personality traits and other abilities. For example, if your parents were both great at math, there’s a good chance you may be predisposed to having the same mental qualities that would make you good at math, too. Not always, but there’s a chance of it.

Now, I’ve always wondered that if at the time of your conception, in addition to the genetic baby batter, there was also a possibility that all the experiences that your parents have ever had up to that very moment were somehow recorded in their DNA. I mean, the physical stuff is in there—who knows what else might be hidden? So when the pieces come together to make you, you also might get access to a portion of your parents’ lives.

But, wait—if that’s the case and you follow it back, then you would have to think that the information of their parents (your grandparents) up to the moment of their conceptions would be in there somewhere. And then your grandparents would have partial access to their parents (your great grandparents) and so on and so on, all the way back to who knows when.

(No, I’ve never smoked weed. Why?)

I’ve often wondered that visions of previous lives or flashes that we attribute to things like deja vu, might be those tiny snippets of knowledge from our ancestors somehow popping down the DNA chain. Ultimately, if it’s all somewhere in there, then as geneticists learn to extract memory-type info from DNA, it might be possible to access it, like with the aforementioned “dream access” breakthroughs.

Who knows how far back up the family tree you can go? To the birth of Man?

The ultimate joke on scientists would be going back to the Beginning and discovering it started in what appeared to be a beautiful garden, aside from one big snake who hung around this one apple tree. Or from some alien race seeding the planet.

Speaking of which …

• A hybrid cyborg-human race – The recent reboot of Battlestar Galactica sort of headed in this direction with their ideas of cylons, which were robots cloaked in human skin. What I’m thinking is that eventually we’ll start building better bodies for our brains to be put into.

We’re already working along those lines—people are constantly having worn-out or broken body parts replaced, from hips and knees to prosthetic limbs and artificial heart valves. It’s only a matter of time before complete exoskeltons are being crafted—tough, augmented, possibly indestructible outer shells that we slip on to protect our fragile, soft and fleshy bodies.

Once that happens, you know it’ll be rigged with the latest technology (the internet wired directly into our skulls, right?). And after we have a few generations who are literally wired, eventually it’ll get to the point where the technology becomes part of our DNA.

The next step, of course, would be building bodies with interchangeable and upgradable parts that would essentially render us immortal.

Scary, right? We actually become eternal “toasters,” as the cylons were called on BSG.

Then again, if we all look like Caprica 6 …

Frack me!


Jan 252013

Okay, I saw that the original Batmobile sold for $4.6 million the other day, which makes sense because I think that there’s no debate that it is the COOLEST. TV CAR. EVAR!

Seriously, it is. Nothing else even comes close—the paint job, the fins, the pipes, the bubble windshields, the flames coming out the back, the ejector seat … AN ICON OF COMPLETE AWESOMESAUCE, as my son has forbidden me from saying.

That nonetheless having been said, I would love to be in a financial position to own this vehicle! Oh well, I can still dream about buying it, or any of these other car that I loved growing up—

Five Coolest TV Cars of My TV Childhood (After the Original Batmobile, of course)

1. The General Lee

Okay, I’m not just a good ol’ boy never meaning no harm, but that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t want to jump my car over rivers, swamps, lakes, ditches, gullies, trucks, other cars, old shacks, trailer homes, semi-detached houses, churches, junk yards, football stadiums, the Georgia Bulldog cheerleaders …

Oh, and I’m pretty sure all I would have to do was pull up and hit the horn, and Cousin Daisy would come over and her drop her Daisy Dukes for me.

2. KITT (the original!)

Rather than explain why the ORIGINAL Knight Industries Two Thousand is so cool, I’ll just say that this Nerd clip from “Robot Chicken” comes remarkably close to the truth.

“We’d fight all my enemies … and murder them …”

3. The Munsters Koach

I’m not sure there’s really a lot of explaining I have to do with this one—bad ass all around and pretty much every seat is a cool, even in the back. Oh, and if Cousin Marilyn (from the recent “remake” that only got one episode) comes along for the ride, that’s good by me, too.

4. The Mach 5

If you think I never danced around in front of the TV singing “GO SPEED RAYCER, GO!” then this is clearly the first time you’ve ever been to this blog. Thanks for stopping by!

5. Starsky & Hutch’s Gran Torino

I’m not saying that I was an impressionable youth who learned to slide over the hoods of cars in the hopes of one day being cool enough to drive this car, but … oh wait, I *am* saying that.

Don’t give up on me baby … some day, some day …


Jan 232013

If you’re anywhere along the East Coast of the United States today, no doubt you are painfully aware that IT IS FREAKIN’ COLD OUTSIDE!

How cold is it, you ask?

It’s colder than …

… the reception that Chris Rock gets when he walks into a Klan rally.

… sleeping between Bill and Hillary Clinton.

… a three-way with Manti Te’o.

… your mama offering Lay’s on the corner.

… clubbing a baby harp seal on Christmas morning.

… Frosty’s left nut.

… Bill Belichick’s heart.

… trying to sell freezers in Siberia.

… Vanilli’s singing career.

… Polar Bear Appreciation Day in downtown Point Barrow.

… Ladies Drink Free night at the national NAMBLA convention.

… being dumped by the Abominable Snow Man for Larry King.

… trying to have sex while Gilbert Gottfried reads Fifty Shades of Grey. [NSFW language]

… the North Pole on Free Snow Cone Day.

… a Lady Gaga concert at the Vatican.

… ice skating naked at Rockefeller Center while Stevie Wonder watches.

… the Hitler picture booth at the Jerusalem Winter Carnival.

… Lindsay Lohan’s Oscar chances.

But yeah, it’s cold.

Jan 202013

On Sunday, January 20, 2013, Barack Obama takes the oath of office for his second term as President of the United States. During the inaugural celebration, which will stretch into Monday, he will address the entire nation to celebrate the event and lay out his vision for his second term in office.

Although I’m sure he’s got qualified professionals who might have more (read: any) experience writing such oratories, I thought that this time out he might need some help, especially since the majority of Americans probably won’t remember anything he said—unless he mentions something about giving away free pizza or having Honey Boo Boo and The Human Thumb, deported to Kazakhstan—ten minutes after the speech is over.

I guarantee that if he chooses to use this speech, people will remember it.

Here we go with

The Inaugural Address That I Can Only Hope President Obama Will Deliver This Time

My fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the continuing challenges before us, deeply grateful for the trust you have bestowed upon me once again. Now that I’m safely entrenched in the second term that you have granted me, I no longer have to be as concerned about how my every word and action might be twisted by political opponents to sway or mislead the voting electorate. So with those challenges behind me, I’ve decided that I’m going to talk to you in a more direct manner.

Simply: I’m done with the bullshit and I’m going to give it to you all straight.

Oh, that’s right, the current President of the United States just uttered the word “bullshit,” and guess what? Not a damned thing happened. Oh sure, some people may have gasped, a few hearts may have skipped a beat here or there, but no one was physically hurt or died from my use of that word, nor did the world come to any sort of abrupt end. Heck, no one was even psychologically damaged by this, not even the youngest of our Americans, who have most likely already heard their own parents exclaim such words—or worse—in frustration. Often repeatedly.

Sticks and stones break bones last time I checked, not the occasional naughty word.

And you see, that illustrates two of the major challenges that lie before us. Not only are our energies constantly absorbed by focusing on meaningless controversies such as being offended by a mere word that we’ve all heard and most likely have used at numerous points in our lives, but more importantly, we’re also creating a nation of insulated, self-absorbed precious snowflakes who can never hear a bad word, can never be allowed to be sad, and can never be subjected to the slightest hardship or inconvenience.

In short, we’re raising a generation of zombified wusses who live their days glued to video games and cell phones, and who are convinced that they can do no wrong. Trust me, I know this firsthand—I have two beautiful daughters of my own, Natasha and Malia, who can tell you in excruciating detail about how they can navigate a sandbox game like Minecraft, but yet are incapable of finding their way on their own to the local playground to play in a sandbox. We have allowed them to become more interested in keeping up with the Kardashians than keeping up with their algebra.

Epic fail, as they say.

Sure, my fellow parents, our intentions are noble, but by making it easier on our children now, we’re making it harder on everyone in the long run. In our zest to ensure every one of our children feels good about him or herself by giving them a trophy for just showing up, it means that often they never taste the bitter agony of defeat, and thus, have never gain a strong hunger for victory. Maybe if a child or two got left behind on occasion, they would work harder to keep up with the best and brightest.

Perhaps this is why the rest of the civilized world is kicking our collective butts in areas that are “hard” such as science, manufacturing and technology, and will continue to do so. Our kids just don’t give a damn because they know they’ll be rewarded, regardless of the outcome, as long as they—quote, unquote—try.

And that’s not how it works in the real world, is it? If you show up at work and try, that’s all fine and good, but if you don’t get the job done, you’re not going to stay employed for very long are you . . . unless of course you work in Congress.

[*wait for laughter to subside*]

All joking aside, we need to raise mentally tougher and thicker-skinned children, more rugged individuals who are not deterred at the first obstacle and will not throw up their hands when the going gets rough. No more waiting for Mommy to come along and make it all right—make it all right for yourself, or be left behind.

But before we can do that, my fellow Americans, the first step is looking at ourselves, and realizing that we need to step up our own game. That in addition to teaching our children how to make things all right for themselves, we need not only to teach ourselves how to make things all right for ourselves, but that each and every one of us is solely responsible for our own lives.

That’s right—it’s time to stop playing the blame game. It’s not the fault of big business, the government, the education system, your local planning and zoning board, the Illuminati or even the cast of the Jersey Shore that you’re living in a van down by the river. If you’re an adult and you’re not happy with where you are in your life, you have no one to blame but yourself. You—and you alone—can change it.

It’s called personal responsibility. Google it. Learn it. Live it.

And I don’t want to hear you say that you can’t do it. Despite what many may say, this is still the Land of Opportunity. Just ask my good friend from back in Kenya, Donald Trump, who on multiple opportunities squandered the fortune his father left him before finally making it bigger than his hair.

[*smile smugly and nod during the applause, then get serious again*]

Now many might suggest that the last four years in the United States have sucked—the economy has been down, retail prices are up, our political system appears to be frozen, and numerous heartbreaking tragedies have befallen our land.

But I say to each one of you, step back and compare your life here in the United States to the rest of the world.

Yes, there’s 8 percent unemployment here, but guess what? That means 92 percent employment—I guarantee you anyone in Greece or Spain, where 1 out of 4 people are jobless, would happily trade for that any day of the week. Tanks are not rumbling down Main Street America while they slaughter tens of thousands of innocent citizens, like in Syria. We’re not facing famine and disease such as in West Africa, where 150 of every 1,000 children will die before reaching age 5. You’re not eating the bark off trees to stay alive while the latest generation in a line of chubby, well-fed megalomaniacs are ranting about Best Korea and comparing the size of their rockets to everyone else.

First world problems, people.

Now that’s not to say we shouldn’t focus our energies on pushing this proud nation to reach its full potential. I think that we all agree that if we can get every American man and woman, boy and girl, to stop their whining and their bitching, to ignore the distractions that come with such negative activities, to put all our ridiculous partisan political bickering aside, and started working together, there would be no freaking  stopping us.

Sure, we have challenges, from economic woes and gun control to congressional constipation and our ever-growing national waistline, but I truly believe if we cut all the petty, self-serving crap and tried to find solutions that would help the silent majority rather than appease the obnoxiously loud few, we would once again be regarded by all as the greatest nation on Earth.

I think of the words of two young women who worked in a brewery in Milwaukee, who went from obscurity to prosperity. “Nothing’s gonna turn us back now. Straight ahead and on the track now. We’re gonna make our dreams come true. Doin’ it our way.” The American Way.

So let’s get off our butts and get to work. To paraphrase the brilliant Americans who brought us South Park, The Book of Mormon and Team America: World Police: “America … FUCK YEAH!”

Thank you, and God bless.

Jan 182013

This post is a request from my son, who simply said to me: “Hey Dad, you know what would be good? If you did a list of your favorite bad guys.”

Done! You know, because I’m a good dad like that …

It also helps that I really didn’t have anything else particular in mind for this week.

And before I start, I should say that before the ill-fated prequels, Darth Vader would’ve been on this list without question. But after telling the improbable and inane back story of the whiny, petty and childish Jedi wannabe Anakin Skywalker, it completely ruined the character in every way, shape and form. Hard to think Vader is all-powerful and evil when he built C-3PO (and somehow forgot about it) and was best buds with Jar Jar Binks.

To paraphrase: “NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”

Anyway, here are

Five of my Favorite Fictional Villains

1. C. Montgomery Burns, “The Simpsons” – I could talk all day about all the unconscionable qualities and nefarious schemes that makes Springfield’s resident billionaire industrialist a wickedly delightful character, but I think a single word (and the way he says it, while twittering his fingers) sums up his malevolence best: “Exxxcellent …”

Now release the hounds!

2. Dr. Evil, “Austin Powers” movies – I’d argue that Dr. Evil is by far the best part of the entire Austin Powers franchise. He has the best lines, worst puns and is by far the most amusing character—I find myself bored when he’s not on screen.

I also can’t help myself from falling into his voice whenever I mention … one … milllllllion … dollars.

Besides, without Dr. Evil, I wouldn’t know that if I ever built an evil lair, it would need to have sharks with frickin’ laser beams on their heads.

3. Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz, “Phineas & Ferb” – If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I’m a big fan of the perpetually helpless Dr. Doof, who in every episode tries to take over the entire Tri-State Area—often with the help of one of his infamous (and often flawed) -inators—only to be foiled by Agent P.

I also love that on the show, every time they mention “the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz,” they always run a perfectly evil photo like this—

Curse you Perry the Platypus!!!

4. Dr. Doom, Marvel Comics – I’m seeing a them within a theme here!

Of all the fictional evil doctors, it’s hard to argue that the nemesis of the Fantastic Four has the best name and the best outfit.

Doctor Victor von Doom, at your service (not really)

I don’t even care he seems to have a lame back story and really isn’t amusing or entertaining in any particular way. The Lord of Latveria just looks like a badass! Although, with those metal gauntlets, I’m glad he’s not my gastroenterologist.

5. Silas Barnaby, March of the Wooden Soldiers – Every Thanksgiving, we watch this movie, and every Thanksgiving, I am greatly entertained by Laurel and Hardy as well as the wretched, pig-napping, bogeyman-loving villain in the movie, Silas Barnaby.

Fun bad guy fact: When actor Henry Brandon played Barnaby in 1934, he was only 22 years old! (Great makeup, right?) He was also 6 foot, 5 inches tall, so if you watch the film, you notice he’s bent over in almost every scene so he wouldn’t tower over the other actors.

To this day, in the scene in Bogeyland when he’s summoning up his evil minions, I’m still haunted by the odd bonging/thumping noise his club made when he bangs it on the stalagmites. *chills*

Considering his outfit, I’ve always assumed he was some sort of dandy Amish pilgrim, but then again, it may have been this identity crisis that put him in such a constant foul mood. Whatever his motivation, he does a good job of being bad!


Jan 152013

Conversation I Just Overheard Between My 13-year-old Son and His Buddy

(And because it was via Skype on his computer and he was wearing earbuds, I really only heard one side. Oh, and I had to ask him afterward to help me transcribe this so I could get the technical jargon right.)

My Son: Okay, okay. Open up that window so I can see your screen. Make it bigger. Okay. Hmm … Hang on as I look it up on the Minecraft server.

My Son: All right … let me see. You might have a problem with the game program. You’ll have to close it and then re-open it.

My Son: Okay—is your computer 32-bit or 64-bit? Yeah, that’s right. Then you need to get the newest version of Java so it’s more compatible with your video card. Just Google it. Not that one, not that one—click on the one at the bottom of the screen. That’s it. You have to make sure it’s an .exe file.

My Son: That loaded pretty quickly. Good. But … no, wait! I didn’t say to click on it yet! Why did you … what? My computer is lagging a little. Sorry. That’s okay, we can re-install it.

My Son: You’ll probably have to go into the editor and adjust the settings. Hey, I’ve got to. Dinner time. I’ll call you back later and we can finish fixing this.

Technical Conversation Between My 13-year-old Self and My Buddy Milo

Me: Hey, my bike has a flat tire.

Milo: Guess you’ll have to ride your skateboard until you fix it.

Me: Yeah. Dang.


Jan 132013

Okay, I thought it might be fun to do an Oscars-type competition among the movies that I’ve seen this year in the theater. So I went through the list of 2012 theatrical releases and …

Well, here are the films I saw in the theater in 2012:

  • The Three Stooges
  • Brave
  • The Avengers
  • The Dark Knight Rises
  • ParaNorman
  • Frankenweenie
  • Wreck-It Ralph
  • Lincoln

(One of these is not like the others …)

Holy guacamole, what in the name of Ed Wood has happened to me?!

I mean, I absolutely *LOVE* going to the movies, and this is all I saw this year? I used to see this many films in a month, let alone an entire twelve months. Yes, my life has been very busy this year—ditto my wife’s and kids’—but this is just sad. Wow, I need to get out more.

Oh, and the depth and breadth of these films … well, it’s obvious that outside of Lincoln, I didn’t get to the cinema without my kids in tow. Even then …


But hey, why should a little thing like my glaring lack of theatrical visits in the past year stop me from my original idea of doing some movie awards? Go put on your shiny dress and grab your popcorn while I roll out the red carpet for

The 2012 Rayality Movie Awards

Best Picture – Unlike all those other awards show, I’ll give you my winner in the big category right up front, and this year it goes to: The Avengers.

Sure, Lincoln was great, but for reasons (to be discussed below), I felt that it wasn’t the best film I saw this year. We had very high expectations for The Avengers—as did half of the world—and it absolutely delivered. It was fun, full of action and had a few absolutely awesome moments. We all walked out of the theater buzzing and with big smiles on our faces, which is how you should really exit any theater.

Sure, it may not be considered artistic fare, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t great.

Best Actor – Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln. Words cannot express how terrific DDL was portraying the 16th president; he perfectly captured the Abraham Lincoln that history (not cinema) describes—wise, funny, thoughtful, affable, open-minded, shrewd politician, a teller of funny and coarse stories, high-pitched voice with a hillbilly-like twang, and most importantly, incredibly charismatic. Consequently, he’ll probably take home more than a few of those overrated “real” awards, and I think that’s a big reason why I didn’t enjoy Lincoln as much as I wanted to.

My biggest issue is that I wanted more Lincoln in a movie named Lincoln. Rather than a biography featuring the brilliant political career and remarkable life of Abraham Lincoln—who was born dirt poor in a log cabin in Kentucky, came out of nowhere to engineer the presidential nomination in 1860 and then brilliantly used his political rivals to form his cabinet—Lincoln really was a movie about the passage of the 13th amendment. As a movie about that, it was truly terrific. As a story about Lincoln (you know, as what a movie entitled Lincoln and based on Team of Rivals might suggest), it was woefully inadequate, especially when you have one of the best actors in the world giving one of his greatest performances. I wanted so much more.

To be fair, if you wanted to properly tell Lincoln’s story, a TV mini series like “John Adams” probably would be the best way to go. Maybe next time.

Best Actress – Larry David, The Three Stooges. David’s portrayal of Sister Mary-Mengele was a transforming performance that has re-invented the character of the “bad nun played by man” for all time to come …

Or, none of the other actresses in the films that I saw were all that terrific. I love both Anne Hathaway and Scarlett Johansson, but neither brought anything all that special or substantial to their portrayals of super hero chicks other than look *real good* in tight outfits.

And as Mary Todd Lincoln, for me, Sally Field played Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln. Meh.

Most Overrated Film – The Dark Knight Rises. Without giving away too many spoilers, let’s just say it was not nearly as good as The Dark Knight. I had some major issues, especially since it looks as though Christopher Nolan had an idea of how he wanted the trilogy to permanently (and heroically) end for a certain character, but it appears that the studio bosses came in and said, “You can’t do that!” and forced a convoluted, impractical and stupid end on the film.

I also had a problem with the main bad guy Bane—I couldn’t understand half three quarters anything he said. Look, I know trying to top Heath Ledger’s Joker is near impossible, but poor Tom Hardy was acting with one hand tied behind his back with his face completely obscured by that silly mask. I get that the comic-book character has the mask, but maybe they should’ve gone with a different villain. Preferably one that had some personality or understandable motivation for his crimes.

Also, there were plot holes big enough to drive the Batmobile through. I send you to this site [WARNING: LOTS OF SPOILERS!], where someone who has less of a life than me lists them by size.

Oh, and there’s the whole Batman-Catwoman thing. Speaking of …

Worst On-Screen ChemistryChristian Bale and Anne Hathaway, The Dark Knight Rises. Not only did the whole Catwoman-Batman “romance” feel like a studio-demanded forced add on, but Bale and Hathaway had the chemistry of a log and another log. No sparks, no heat, no passion, no witty repartee, not even so much as a glimmer of mutual interest. I’ve had colonoscopies that were more alluring than these two together.

Best On-Screen Chemistry – John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman, Wreck-It Ralph. I’m not a voice actor, but since the majority of them work alone in a recording booth, it must be challenging to do your lines and interact with other actors who aren’t there.

I read that Reilly only took the project because they told him that he would be able to work directly with the other actors in the recording studio, and it shows—he (as Ralph) and Silverman (as Vanellope) have a genuine camaraderie that helps sell the entire story.

Better Than I Dared to Hope – The Three Stooges. Like many of you, when I heard that the Farrelly Brothers were going to make a Three Stooges film, I was like, “Uh, really. That’s doesn’t seem like a good idea.” But my sons were interested, and when I saw how dead-on the actors got the original Stooges and their mannerisms, I was okay with seeing it.

Again, not art by any means, but certainly a bunch of cheap laughs to be had and much better than I expected. That being said …

Best Use of SnookiThe Three Stooges. And by “best use,” I mean by getting a few laughs out of her, that’s probably more than society could ever hope to get out of her.

Best Homage to Classic CinemaFrankenweenie. I had to explain to my kids why I was laughing at the main character’s friends, who were inspired by Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre, none of whom they had ever heard of. Obviously, I need to have them start watching the old horror originals like Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy.

Biggest Surprise (And Best Animated Feature) – ParaNorman. Okay, in all seriousness, this was almost my best film of the year. Brave was beautiful and wonderful as any Pixar film, and Frankenweenie was Tim Burton-inspired fun, and even Wreck-It Ralph was decent, but this animated feature that almost no one saw was TERRIFIC.

ParaNorman didn’t use a bunch of celebrity voices to sell a movie that no one had heard of. It was original, the story had a lot of depth, some adult-like themes and wasn’t at all predictable, and the animation was awesome—the final confrontation between Norman and the “witch,” was nothing short of visually amazing (and touching and even a little scary). Just a great, great film.

I hope some day it gets discovered and becomes a Halloween classic like It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story has become for the other holidays.

Jan 112013

So I saw this story the other day about the Netherlands-based Mars One project is looking for non-astronaut volunteers to help start a colony on Mars. In other words, they want a bunch of regular Joes to shoot into space ….

From the link above:

Mars One isn’t zeroing in on scientists or former fighter pilots; anyone who is at least 18 years old can apply to become a Mars colony pioneer. The most important criteria, officials say, are intelligence, good mental and physical health and dedication to the project, as astronauts will undergo eight years of training before launch.

Now I definitely fit most of the criteria—arguably “normal,” over 18, decent health, some intelligence—although I do not have eight years of training to dedicate to the training program. I am also not crazy about another cost-savings facet of the mission not mentioned in that story: that’s it’s a one-way trip.

That’s right—sign up and you are agreeing to leave Earth … FOREVER.

I would love to explore space, but I’d prefer to do so with the caveat of coming back to my beloved planet of origin (or what I think is my planet of origin—although if it turns out it wasn’t, it might explain *A LOT*). Apparently, not everyone feels the same way about a space trip not returning to Earth, as the program has already gotten over 1,000 applications in only a few days. As the Dutch say: “Say la vie….”

Well, since I can’t go, I thought about who I would want to volunteer for a one-way trip to Mars. As you might expect, the list was surprisingly long.

Rather than reach for the low-hanging fruit, such as the cast of “Jersey Shore” or that coven of no-talent attention whores that everyone tries to keep up with for some reason or the entire congregation of the Westboro Baptist Church—all those should be on the first one-way mission directly into *the Sun*—I have attempted to come up with

Five Non-Astronauts Who Should Be on A Trip to Colonize Mars

1. Mike Rowe – As the host of “Dirty Jobs,” Rowe is useful because he could do pretty much any task you need in setting up a colony, from farming mushroom and making cheese to mining coal and birthing cattle to cleaning poop and castrating sheep with his teeth. Tell me any of that wouldn’t be important on the Red Planet.

2. Mary Roach – As the author of Packing for Mars and a terrific science writer, Roach understands the logistics behind the mission and what’s actually involved with preparing for the journey, and will undoubtedly provide an entertaining chronicle of the adventure. I mean, if she’s willing to ride on the Vomit Comet and drink her own urine, I’m pretty sure there’s nothing she won’t do.

3. James Franco – Because there’s nothing he can’t do, right? Seriously, the guy can write, teach, dance, act, direct, paint, play sports, perform magic, has about a bajillion interests … I’m thinking “fly a space ship” and “father a new race on another planet” is probably already on his To Do list anyway.

4. Lance Armstrong – He’s athletic, is used to endurance-type endeavors (even without the PEDs) and really isn’t up to all that much these days since the lifetime ban came down. This would also be a prime opportunity for him to rehabilitate his image. The only caveat is that he’d have to wear the red shirt.

5. Courtney Love – Obviously, every team needs a wild card, and clearly Ms. Love would fit that role. Also, pretty sure that like cockroaches and tardigrades, she is essentially indestructible and could withstand anything the cosmos might hurl at her, from high doses of radiation to space herpes. And with her on board, there absolutely would never be a dull moment!


Jan 092013

“All I want is a freakin’ key!” I say/whine for what only feels like the hundredth time at the second dealership ….

When I got my beloved Mazda 6 back in August, one of the things that came up was that there was only one key with the vehicle. “No big deal,” said Mike, the guy who had gone to the auto auction and got the car for me. “You can have another made pretty easily.”

Of course, I thought. No big whoop—I can go anywhere and get an extra key made ….

Now i’m sure there are a few of you out there already chuckling to yourself—rather than bore you with all the details, I’ll just say that my car requires a special computerized key that can NOT be gotten from just anywhere. You have to go to a …. dealership.

If there truly are circles of hell as Dante suggests, one of them is assuredly the waiting room of an automobile dealership.

I am very fortunate that I have an excellent, honest mechanic whom I trust: Todd Anderson, the owner of an independent garage who knows me, my wife and our vehicles, and only does the work our cars need. He’s friendly, he’s honest and makes suggestions for work that can be done but never ever forces it on us.

When I was debating about having extensive work done on my old car, I asked Todd if he would do it—with both of us knowing that he’d be the guy who would do the work. He told me not to do it and that it wasn’t worth it for me, which cost him a few thousand dollars at that moment but has guaranteed a lifetime customer. Good luck getting that recommendation from a dealership, unless it’s followed by, “But you can buy an expensive, overpriced, brand-new car right off our lot here!”

No thanks!

Unfortunately, as Todd confirms, I have to find a Mazda dealership to have an extra key made. On a Saturday, I go to a Mazda dealership in Hamden—I’d link to them but as it turns out, they’re a bunch of douchebags.

Yes, bags filled with douche.

I go to the service department and they tell me that if I want a new key, I have to go all the way around the facility—a distance far enough that they tell me to drive—to the parts department to have it done.

I get back in my car, drive all the way around the buildings and eventually find the parts department. I go in and ask about having a key made. In short, the two gents exiled there tell me they can do it, but it’s going to take an hour because they have to program the computer chip in it.

Annoying, but I understand. They then start asking me about what kind of key I want. “I want one to drive the car,” I say, slightly exasperated. “What other kind is there?”

The two “Buckwild” rejects tell me that there’s a key like I have—

—with all the electronic bells and whistles, which I hate (too bulky). Programmed, it costs well over $300.

“Are there other options?” I ask. “All I want is an extra key.”

They tell me there’s a more simple key that only costs about $150, but—and I quote—”You won’t be able to start the engine with it.”

“What the hell good is that?” I ask. “Why would anyone want that?”

Tweedle D-Bag and Tweedle D-Baggier just shrug.

“Okay, whatever,” I say. “All I want is a freakin’ key. Let’s do it.”

They both look at each other. “Well,” one says, “You have to go back over there to the service department to see if it’s available or have them order it, and then set up the appointment.”

“WAIT!” I try not to shout. “THEY sent me over HERE for that. Don’t you guys do that over here? Why would they send me all the way over here otherwise?”

The idiot brothers just shrug.

Almost biting down on my tongue hard enough to snap it off, I nod, go back to me car and drive out of there. NEVER TO RETURN as it turns out, because that cheaper $125 key (not $150!) they talked about actually *WILL* start the engine. I find this out at a different Mazda dealership in another town.

“Okay, let’s make an appointment,” I tell the guy behind the counter, still not crazy about having to come back—all I want is a freakin’ key!—but slightly happier that I’m dealing with a slightly more honest and cheaper dealership.

I come back at the appointed time, but when I come through the door, the first thing the guy tells me is that he needs my registration and odometer reading.

“All I want is a key,” I grouse at him, but I go back out to the car and retrieve the information. I give him the stuff, and then he starts asking way more personal information than should be involved with making an extra key for my car.

He finally asks me for my cell phone number and that’s my breaking point. “Sorry but you don’t need that to make a freakin’ key!” I exclaim. “COME ON! All I want is a FREAKING KEY!” (You know, just like at the start of this post—see how I did that?)

He counters that he needs my info to put my car “In the system,” but I know that really means: “We need your info so we can repeatedly call and email you in the hopes of getting you to buy another car, or better yet, track your mileage so that we can harass you into having expensive and quite often unnecessary service work at intermittent periods.”

Again, I say, “No.”

Surprisingly, he finds they can make the key without my cell phone number. Go figure!

I go to the waiting where there’s a young woman in the waiting room. As I sit down, they come out to tell her that her car “only needs a few more little things” that they should do “while it’s here.”

Clearly not knowing any better, she agrees. I’m still there when she goes to pay—and even though it’s “a good dealership,” it turns out what sounds like was supposed to be a simple oil change winds up costing her $269.

I almost throw up for her.

At least she didn’t need a key!